It’s not often you attend an audio show demo where a song’s actual singer shows up for an impromptu live versus Memorex moment.
Just such an unlikely event has happened to me twice in the last 18 months, though, both times thanks to the irrepressible jazz vocalist Lyn Stanley.
At the 2014 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, the artist popped into the Valve Amplification Co. room just as her second album, “Potions,” had begun to spin. Stanley responded by treating me and a half-dozen others in the room to a brief sing-along.
In Chicago at AXPONA 2016, Stanley followed up a record-signing appearance at the Elusive Disc in the lobby with a visit to the Kyomi Audio installation on the lower level.
As a track from her new album “Interludes” played, Stanley pitted her unamplified pipes against the Kyomi system, which included Marten’s new Coltrane 3 speakers ($100,000 a pair), Convergent Audio Technology monoblocks ($31,990 a pair) and CAT SL-1 Legend preamp/phono stage ($27,990). Turntable was the TechDAS Air Force 3 ($27,000), outfitted with a Graham Phantom Elite 12-inch tonearm ($14,000) and a Van den Hul Colibri Stradivarius cartridge ($7,995). The CD transport was MBL’s 1621A ($28,000) and decoding the ones and zeros was the Merging Technologies NADAC ($10,500).
You have to hand it to Stanley, who may be, if not the hardest-working modern jazz performer, certainly the most determined. Becoming a singer only a few years ago after career stints in dancing and advertising, she self-funds her audiophile-quality albums and markets them as a whirlwind, one-woman promotional force.
In the Kyomi room, the glamorous Stanley cut loose with plenty of stories (including getting permission to use Frank Sinatra’s microphone at Capitol Studios), dancing, and, of course, singing. She accompanied an entire side of her album, including sultry takes on “Last Tango in Paris” and “Whole Lotta Love.”
The Marten-CAT system did a remarkable job, with Stanley’s recorded vocals faring quite well in comparison to the real thing. In particular, the loudspeakers conveyed how much Stanley’s phrasing, pitch and breath control have improved since her debut.
The sound of the piano, played by Mike Garson, accurately captured the David Bowie sideman’s tone and spirited attack. Bass, meanwhile, was full and audible down to the lower depths.
Lyn Stanley in the flesh is a hard act to follow, but Kyomi pressed on with impressive recorded cuts from Charlie Byrd and John Lee Hooker. No matter whether the performer was physically present to not, the system approached the real thing.